The bid for a no-hitter in a critical state sectional semifinal game was lost unceremoniously.
It came on an infield hit, a ground ball in the hole fielded by East Brunswick first baseman Jack Ryan, who had no one to throw to, and just barely lost the footrace to the bag against Manalapan’s Christian Bernardini.
But no matter. Bears starter Joe Ditzel got out of the resulting bases loaded, one-out jam without a run coming across, and after Aaron Warner closed out the game – giving up a run on the final play where Eric Johnson was cut down trying to stretch a single into a double for the last out – East Brunswick had a 7-1 win in the Central Jersey Group 4 quarterfinals.
The win puts 5th-seeded Bears (14-11) in the sectional semis this coming Tuesday night at Old Bridge. The top-seeded Knights (18-8) beat West Windsor-Plainsboro North 10-0 in five innings Thursday.
Central Jersey Sports Radio will broadcast that game at 6 pm from Fred Cole Field, with pregame at 5:45 pm.
And East Brunswick is now a win away from a second straight CJ4 final, where they lost last year to Howell, 8-2, the same Rebels team they beat in this year’s opening round back on Monday.
Ditzel allowed just one hit in six innings, striking out ten, in the first game all year he felt healthy after being bit by the injury bug for most of the year.
On offense, it was all East Brunswick until the last play of the game.
They got a run in the first on a sac fly to center by Dustin McGuinness that scored Jack Gerould, who drew a one-out walk as the second batter in the game.
They got two in the third on an RBI single by Derek Christie and and a sac fly by Jason Agrait.
Then, in the fifth, East Brunswick plated three runs to put the game out of reach. After a leadoff single by McGuinness chase Manalapan starter Dylan Shaffer, reliever Daniel Burns picked up a strikeout, but then walked Agrait, setting the table for a two-RBI single by John Oranchak, who later scored on a wild pitch.
And the Bears got one insurance run in the seventh after Gerould led off with an infield hit, moved to second on a wild pitch, then to third on a sac fly to right by Ryan Schultz. McGuinness – who should get Tuesday’s start against Old Bridge – lined one to second that was ruled in E4, driving in the last run.
East Brunswick and Old Bridge split during the regular season, the Bears losing a 5-2 decision, but winning the rematch 5-4. McGuinness didn’t pitch in either game, but is 1-1 against the Knights all-time.
Click below for postgame reaction presented by SportsPlex at Metuchen: